Kulen Falls, in the Phnom Kulen National Park, is a popular place for both locals and tourists to cool off on a hot day. The national park is located in the Phnom Kulen mountain range in the Siem Reap Province of northern Cambodia. It’s not a mountain range as you’re probably thinking, like the Rocky Mountains, but rather a mid-height plateau that runs for about 40km.
The range, which translates to “Mountain of Lychees,” has important historical significance. It’s considered a holy mountain for both Hindus and Buddhists who visit in pilgrimage. It’s not only religiously significant but is nationally significant as well. Phnom Kulen is the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire, the predecessor state of modern Cambodia. This powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire lasted 629 years and was responsible for the famous monuments in Angkor — very near the national park — amongst other things, as it was an empire of immense power, wealth, art, and culture. Angkor, at its peak in the 11th-13th centuries, was the largest pre-industrial city in the world.
Phnom Kulen is a favorite spot for outdoor activities and leisure. There are two main waterfalls in the park, the first is ~5 meters tall, while the second is ~20m tall. They’re at their fullest during rainy season — typically May to November. But, the waterfalls aren’t the only thing to see in the park.
There’s a massive reclining Buddha statue at the top of the mountain. It’s carved from sandstone (like the mountain), and, at 8 meters, is one of the largest in Cambodia. The River of a Thousand Lingas features carvings in the riverbed itself, dating back to the Khmer Empire, and are fully exposed in the dry season. To see it, you’ll need to make a 1.5km trek from the parking site.
How to get there
Phnom Kulen National Park is located 48km to the north of Siem Reap. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Siem Reap, and the best way to get there is by car or van, and if you’re adventurous, by motorcycle.
What to consider
- This is a sacred place for Cambodians, respect it as such.
- You can rent bathing suits, but we recommend just packing your own.
- The road UP the mountain is open until noon, and the road DOWN is open after noon (it’s a one-way road).
- There are food and beverage vendors in the park.
- Entrance to the park is $20/person.
- It’s not a great venue for people who have knee problems or the elderly as there’s quite a bit of up and down required.
- Consider renting a car and a driver for the entire day, it’s worth the cost.
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